I have a special interest in discovering new fashion brands and emerging designers. I love to see unique styles coming from entrepreneurs, because I find there ideas to be so fresh, progressive, and innovative. There is nothing more exciting than coming across a recently established brand and meeting the founders. I find these kinds of people to be relentless, creative, and such hard workers. I take great pleasure in learning about there journey as designers and about the steps it takes to start and launch a brand. I have always dreamed of becoming a fashion designer. It takes time, knowledge, the right guidance and resources. I applaud those who have the courage. Maybe one day I will start my own brand that represents my wildest dreams. For now, I thoroughly enjoy learning from my peers and gaining inspiration from them.
I recently had the chance to collaborate and interview with Kevin Shahroozi, a New York native designer who creates high end street-wear made to measure garments. He has such an inspiring story, and I have learned so much from his experiences. He explains about his upbringing, how he started, and much much more. Check out the interview below!
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born in Queens, NY to a Persian father and Taiwanese mother. I work a lot, and I really enjoy my work. But some times I need to find that balance in life. I really like having a good brunch or enjoying a good cocktail at a lounge or nice rooftop with my close friends. Most Saturday evenings, what makes me happy is to have a great dinner with close friends. I also enjoy reading, dancing, and eating with my mother and father over some traditionally cooked Asian food in flushing, NY.
Why did you start your fashion brand?
I started my fashion brand so that I could influence people in the world toward better style, and build something that I love doing. I wanted to be an entrepreneur for a very long time and I always loved fashion since as far back as I can remember. This allowed me to do both at once. Since I was a child I have been passionate about helping people in dressing and personal style. I remember when I was nine years old I would offer to buy milk at the grocery store for my parents. I did this so I could have the opportunity to dress up. I would put on my new t-shirt and jeans, and gel my hair just to show the world my style. I believe that I can provide many jobs, and want to be a well-known fashion brand.
What is the first step to starting a fashion brand?
Believe. You must first believe that you can do it. No matter your experience level or what others think of you. No matter how much fear you have; you must believe you can do it. That is the first step. Then you must take action. Especially if you are not rich, or have many strong and powerful connections in the industry, you are going to have to be prepared to work your behind off.
How did you start your fashion brand?
Not long after my first couple of fashion internships and working at Burberry I started the Shahroozi fashion brand. I started getting fabrics and negotiating with manufacturers all on my own throughout the garment district to make the first samples. It was not easy negotiating on my own for a brand new company no one has ever heard about, but when there’s a will there’s a way. I found ways to get models and photographers to work with me for photo-shoots. Whether it was from just searching online or through word-of-mouth I found a way to make it happen. Soon after, I submitted legal papers to the government to create a corporation for my business.
What adversities did you experience starting off?
Since I didn’t have much money nor a formal education in the fashion (I graduated with a business degree first before I went into fashion), I started to go all out right after college. I started thinking about how I would raise money before I started my fashion brand. Therefore, I started working as a stock trader. Having an interest in stock trading; it seemed to be great for me, because it’s also an entrepreneurial type of work. I had high hopes that I could make a lot of money in trading to use for the future to start my fashion business. I used the $10,000 of my personal savings from previous years of high school and college to do stock trading. I was reading a lot of books on trading and I even took classes for it. After about six months I lost nearly all my savings. I was in a worse situation to start my fashion business from when I started. I then decided to became a real estate agent. My mother was an Assistant Broker in real estate and I thought it would be a good business to learn. It was also a great way to develop my communication skills and I could make some money before I started my fashion brand. After about a year doing real estate, I strongly felt “I cannot take this anymore, the time is now.” I did decent; not great, but it was enough to let me start a business and keep me on my feet. Most of all something was always bothering me inside while I was doing real estate. My soul was bothered that I had not started my fashion business and my true calling.
I started working, interning, and taking fashion classes at night, all at the same time. I worked part-time in the Burberry store to make money on the side to support myself. On my days off from Burberry I interned as a designer for Zac Posen for a few months, then to Marissa Webb for another few months. At the same time, I was taking night classes at FIT (The Fashion Institute of Technology). I had an internship and I was not getting paid for it, though I already had my real estate license and a bachelor’s degree. Life was tough, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices for the dreams you want.
For all the people who dream of becoming fashion designers, what advice would you give them?
My advice would be to stay positive, give it 110%, and staying as hungry as possible everyday. Fashion is geared to the hungriest person who takes the most action to get their brand out there. I worked in retail, real estate, trading; anything that would help my brand or give me supplemental income to grow my emerging business. I would encourage all entrepreneurs to do what they love.
Do not follow the money; follow your passion, and everything else will work itself out. Intern, work for different designers and fashion brands. Go to a fashion school. If not, take night classes while you work in fashion. Get out there and network. Take two side jobs if you have to. Know that it does not come easy; it will come with a lot of sacrifice. It is not even 24/7; it is 25/8. Ego and achieving your goals do not come together. Be humble; do it with a smile; be happy while you work, even if you have to say, “Would you like fries with that?”
What is essential to starting a fashion brand?
I believe you need to network for the things involved with your business and some capital. You need to find production to make your clothing (unless you are doing it all alone, but even then you need help), you need to find models and photographers to have pictures of your clothing, and you need to connect with journalists/bloggers to put your brand out there; like the amazing The Lunar Phase!
You need some capital, just as any business to get it off the ground. You don’t have to have a million dollars to start. You can use a few thousand dollars to make your first collection, doing a photo shoot to have a good set of pictures, and do some online marketing.
What inspires you and where do you find it?
I find inspiration from nearly everything in my life and wherever I travel such as walking the streets of New York and seeing the street style, the architecture of the buildings, and feeling the energy of the city. I also get inspiration from looking at art, reading fashion magazines, and sometimes music too.
Tell us about your collection, and the materials you use.
I love using high quality version of almost all fabrics, especially lambskin leather and cashmere. Right now, I’m also in love with neoprene. Just in recent years neoprene has become popular. It’s the fabric of the scuba divers garment. Nearly all fabrics have high quality versions and low quality versions. With leather, there are leathers that get too stiff, and dull very quickly, and cashmere that pills too easily with a terrible wear & tear look. I love using lambskin leather, high quality cashmere and high quality cotton (e.g. Japanese denim and Egyptian) because they look luxurious & are very nice on the skin.
As far as my collection I use materials as previously mentioned, high-quality wool, cashmere and lambskin leathers, along with other high-end materials in mostly jackets and leather trousers. You can see from my Instagram, @KevinShahroozi, that a lot of the aesthetic and style of the collection is a city, cosmopolitan vibe for a hip and upscale person. It’s for that guy or girl that’s a young professional in the city; working hard, always looking sharp and polished. Yet they have an edge about them. After work and on weekends they are at a posh rooftop lounge or a loft party. We are working on ideas with flight jackets, sport coats (with zippers on them) and perhaps a neoprene vest. Stay tuned!
Do you manufacture in the US? Why or why not?
Yes! I manufacture in the US. I am a grateful and a proud American. Growing up in this wonderful country, I want to support it and help the economy if I can.
What are your sentiments about sustainable design?
I think it’s starting to get really popular now, and will get bigger. I don’t think it will take over the other already established popular markets; such as luxury leathers, but sustainable design will have its own big market as well. There are a lot of people really caring about limiting waste and trying to help have a healthier environment, which is great.
Tell us your thoughts on “fast fashion” and “slow fashion”.
I think fast fashion is great to an addition to your outfit and wardrobe, but should not be mainly what you wear. I believe in putting high quality on your skin, and it’s rare to find fast fashion in high quality. When there is fast fashion at a very low price and it’s high quality it usually means it made at a place where the workers are not paid well. I am not knocking people who purchase only fast fashion, because it’s a tough economy for most and they need to pay for rent along with food. I understand. What would be great is to mix your outfit with some “slow fashion” items and “fast fashion.” It does not cost as much as you think. There are places like Century 21 that most items are luxury brands and at 70% off or more. And I love it when I see a chic girl wearing a Gucci Jacket with her H&M jeans and the outfit matches so well.
How can we find or purchase your collection?
or contact me directly at info@KevinShahroozi.com
We make high quality garments that are custom (made to your measurements) to fit you perfectly. You can choose from my collection you see and you can make yours with some details customized to your preference such as color, length, etc.
Who is your role model and/or favorite designer?
Tom Ford. He created an empire by starting out interning without a fashion degree. And his style is amazing, sharp, polished clothing with some edge.
Tell us about an achievement you are most proud of.
Through my connection with Nineteenth Amendment (A Fashion Platform), a jacket I designed (Black Bomber Jacket with sleeves removed) was chosen to be in the Macy’s Fashion Show that was in Madison Square Garden which aired live on E! Channel in September, 2014.
For more info and to follow Kevin Shahroozi on social media see below!